Global Ethics Corner: Ethics in Banking: Is There Hope for Wall Street?

Mar 23, 2012

The very public resignation of Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith is the low point in a bad year for Wall Street. With the Occupy movement and a rumored recruiting crisis in mind, is there any hope left for Wall Street? Can the banks rebound and find a way to be ethical?

It's been a bad year for Wall Street—and not just because profits are down.

The corporate world's role in the global financial meltdown has branded Wall Street an icon of corruption and greed. The Occupy movement's persistence has accentuated the banking world's troubles. But the most significant blow to Wall Street came just this past week, with the resignation of Greg Smith, a former executive at Goldman Sachs.

In a controversial op-ed published in The New York Times, Smith delivered a stinging rebuke of a business culture he calls "toxic" and "destructive." After a 12-year career at Goldman Sachs, Smith says he resigned due to a "decline in the firm's moral fiber." He says that Goldman execs once strove to do right by their clients, but today they place money before morals, aiming only to maximize profits.

Goldman Sachs has denied Smith's allegations. But Smith's departure has raised new doubts about the ethics of finance. For many, it underlines the corrosive moral bankruptcy taking hold of Wall Street.

Can Wall Street regain its moral compass, or do banking and greed go hand-in-hand?

According to Smith, there's hope. In his op-ed, he reflects on a golden era, when corporate leadership was defined by dollars and ethics. Smith insists that his resignation is not a reprimand, but a wake-up call. Wall Street, he implies, can still get it right.

Today's aspiring leaders may not see it that way. Rumors are rife that Wall Street is facing a recruiting crisis, in part because many students don't believe that ethics and finance can be bridged in the current climate.

What do you think? Can banks be ethical? Is there hope for Wall Street?

By Marlene Spoerri

For more information see

Greg Smith, "Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs," The New York Times, March 14, 2012

GOLDMAN SACHS MEMO: RESPONSE TO TODAY’S NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED, Bloomberg, March 14, 2012

Kevin Roose, "Wall Street’s Latest Campus Recruiting Crisis," The New York Times, March 15, 2012

Photo Credits in order of Appearance:
ToonariPost - A News Mash Up
Hedonoikos
Jeffrey Forcier
David Boudreau
Financial Times/Released
David Shankbone
Benjamin Dumas
Ryan Lawler
Bee
Trey Ratcliff

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